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Caldwell Frees Traverse Pitch on Dawn Wall (5.14d)

posted by dpm on 12/18/2013

Yesterday, Tommy Caldwell redpointed the 2nd traverse pitch on El Capitan’s Dawn Wall project. On Facebook, Pro Climbers International posted:

Breaking News: Tommy Caldwell just sent Pitch 15, the second "traverse pitch" on the Dawn Wall. At 5.14d, it's the hardest pitch in Yosemite and represents a huge step toward an eventual send of the entire route. Congratulations Tommy!

If you’ve followed closely along with the Dawn Wall project for the past few years, you might be a little confused by the above statement. Pitch 15 has previously referred to the infamous sideways dyno pitch, which comes just after two 5.14 traverse pitches. But after a look at the topo, it’s pretty clear that what Tommy just redpointed is the 2nd of the two traverse pitches. On the topo, Kevin Jorgeson labels these pitches as “super hard face traverse, crux of route.”

Kevin Jorgeson's hand drawn Dawn Wall topo. Photo: climbing.com

As the PCI mentioned, not only is this a big step toward the eventual send of the route, but it’s a huge benchmark in Yosemite climbing. Pitch 15 now represents the hardest pitch in Yosemite Valley, the world epicenter of traditional climbing. I believe it’s also the hardest traditionally-protected pitch in the world. 

Update: Jonathan Siegrist, who was part of the Dawn Wall team in 2012, offered some details on the pitch. He notes that the pitch starts on a mini-ledge between the two heinous traverse pitches and finishes below the sideways dyno. “It’s probaly 13c or d  to a very good rest. Then there's a gnarly boulder problem - this is the one that really shut me down. I can't even reach between the two holds. It's very very reachy. But TC was pretty damn good at it. This boulder problem is probably V11 or 12 and then there's another super reachy V7 exit boulder. The real deal! The climbing is generally really insecure, with horrible foot options - especially through the crux. The crux is super crimpy, and like I said before, very reachy, but pretty damn amazing! This pitch is actually pretty fun to climb on.”

Jonathan also addressed my speculation that this might be a contender for the hardest pitch of trad climbing in the world. “It’s actually a sport climbing pitch,” he wrote. “Well, not quite, but there's really no gear; it's all either copper heads or bolts or fixed gear. Still, it never felt like a sport climb!”

Click the image for some Dawn Wall footage. Tommy narrates a good breakdown of the pitch line-up around 1:45.